August Legislative Update

Wisconsin held its 2022 partisan primary election on August 9. The state has had a divided government for the last four years, with solid Republican majorities in both houses of the Wisconsin Legislature and a Democratic governor, attorney general, secretary of state, and state treasurer. Wisconsin is typically a “purple” or “swing state” where statewide-elected offices regularly change party hands, although the Republican Party has dominated the state legislature in recent years because of its natural geographic advantage as well as two favorable rounds of redistricting. 

This year, the Republican Party had strongly contested primaries to select its nominees for governor and attorney general. At the state party convention this year, Republican activists voted not to endorse any candidate in those two statewide races. Ultimately, Trump-endorsed construction executive Tim Michels won the Republican nomination for governor and will face Gov. Tony Evers in November. Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes won the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate and will now challenge U.S. Sen Ron Johnson.

In the Wisconsin Legislature, Republicans are expected to retain solid majorities in both houses following the general election. Only a handful of sitting legislators faced primary challenges; in a surprising turn of events, a Trump-endorsed challenger nearly unseated the current Assembly Speaker. 

Here’s a deeper dive into the State Races Primary Results:



Republican Candidate

Democratic Candidate

Tim Michels – 47.2%

*Tony Evers

Rebecca Kleefisch – 42.0%


Timothy Ramthum – 6.0%


Kevin Nicholson – 3.6%


  • Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, is seeking a second term and did not face a primary challenge.
  • Tim Michels won the Republican primary after entering the race late and receiving the endorsements of former President Donald Trump and former Governor Tommy Thompson. The millionaire businessman largely self-funded his campaign. Michels is co-owner and vice president of Michels Corporation, a large energy and infrastructure design and contracting firm.
  • Michels campaigned as a political outsider, although he and his company have long been connected to the state’s roadbuilding and construction industries and related lobbying associations. Referring to Madison as a “swamp” and criticizing President Joe Biden over issues such as immigration, Michels largely modeled his campaign after that of former President Trump.
  • Former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch entered the race early and secured endorsements from most of the state’s Republican legislators. Michels tagged Kleefisch as an insider with connections to lobbyists and the political establishment. Former Vice President Mike Pence endorsed Kleefisch.
  • Republican State Rep. Tim Ramthun ran a campaign almost entirely focused on investigating and decertifying the 2020 presidential election.



Republican Candidate

Democratic Candidate

Eric Toney – 37.5%

*Josh Kaul

Adam Jarchow – 36.9%


Karen Mueller – 25.6%


  • Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat, is seeking a second term and did not face a primary challenge.
  • Republican Eric Toney, the Fond du Lac County District Attorney, entered the race early and captured many law enforcement endorsements on his way to securing the party’s nomination.
  • Former Republican State Rep. Adam Jarchow outraised his opponents but narrowly took second place.
  • Republican candidate Karen Mueller focused on fringe issues including decertification of the 2020 election. She took a much higher share of the vote than the comparable gubernatorial candidate, State Rep. Tim Ramthun.


  • The current composition of the 33-seat Wisconsin Senate is 21 Republicans and 12 Democrats. The chamber’s 17 odd-numbered districts are on the ballot this year. All incumbents seeking reelection appear likely to retain their seat.
  • Seven members–five Republicans and two Democrats–are not seeking reelection. Republicans are defending five open seats while Democrats are defending two. Five seats held by Republicans, including an open seat, have no Democratic challenger. Republicans are fielding a candidate in every Senate race.
  • Among the open seats, at least three appear potentially vulnerable for the incumbent party, including two for Republicans and one for Democrats.  
  • Republicans are expected to maintain their majority, and a two-thirds supermajority of 22 members is within reach for the party if it wins all seven open seats.


  • The current composition of the 99-seat Wisconsin Assembly is 61 Republicans and 38 Democrats. All 99 districts are on the ballot every two years.
  • Twenty-four (24) members are not seeking reelection, including 14 Republicans and 10 Democrats.
  • Twenty-six (26) Assembly races, including some open seats, do not have a candidate from one of the two major parties. Democrats will win 16 of these Assembly seats, while Republicans will take 10.
  • Republicans are expected to maintain their majority of 60+ seats, but a veto-proof supermajority of 66 seats is likely out of reach.
  • Assembly Speaker Robin Vos narrowly survived a primary challenge from political newcomer Adam Steen. Steen criticized Speaker Vos for refusing to move to decertify the results of the 2020 presidential election, which Vos has maintained is impossible. This earned Steen an endorsement from former President Trump, who has repeatedly chastised the Speaker for this reason. Shortly before the primary, Steen appeared at a rally with the former president and gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels.

If you have ideas on either BROAD or SPECIFIC legislative issue, you’d like the PPC to consider, please e-mail PPC Chair Chad Dallman at [email protected]